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Examine Your Information Sources – Habit

A man is but a product of his thoughts.  What he thinks he becomes. – Gandhi
Your destiny lurks hidden right in front of your eyes.  Your interactions directly with people or indirectly through your information sources guide your future.  You can predict how you will change whether you’re actively planning it or passively letting it happen to you.
What are you watching?  What are you reading?  With whom do you interact?  These are the barometers of your future life.  We’ll skip your direct interactions with people today and focus on information sources.  While we feel like we’re drowning in information, the quality of what we consume gets lower and lower and our lives becomes shallow.  Raise the tide with the steps below to live life more deeply.  If you have five minutes, examine your current information sources in part 1 below.  If you want even quicker wins for filtering information and reading higher quality information, read part 2.  No matter what path you choose, create time to consume more high-quality information from creators intensely immersed in their subject.
Step 1 – Examine Your Current Information Sources
This analysis is a one-time process that takes five minutes or you can repeat it yearly.  Often “reflecting” seems like a vague word for “think about what you did in the past”.  Write down facts to reflect more accurately and to develop more actionable insights.  
Analysis Process
  • Draw a circle like below, but don’t slice it up into a pie chart yet. 
  • List all your regular information sources.
  • Guess the average amount of time you spend daily on each source. 
  • Add up the total amount of time for all sources.
  • Calculate the percentage of time you spend on each. 
  • Create your pie chart or copy and label the figure below. 
  • Label each source using the deep/shallow categorization below as a general guide.
    • Deep – Books, Research Articles, Long-Form Web Articles
    • Shallow – TV, Social Media, News, Click Bait
My Example Analysis
My list is below with TV and Books as my blue ‘A’ and pear ‘E’ and websites as yellow ‘C’ in Chart 1 below.       
  • TV – 60 minutes (33%) – Shallow
  • Facebook – 15 minutes (8%) – Shallow
  • News – 5 minutes (3%) – Shallow
  • Books – 60 minutes (33%) – Deep
  • Websites – 40 minutes (22%) – Split for me
  • Total = 180 minutes
Chart 1 - Matt's Example Daily Average Information Sources
Chart 1 – Matt’s Example Daily Average Information Sources
Reflection Process
  • For each information source ask: “What benefit do I get from this information source?”  Label the benefits for each. Here are some common benefits.
    • Entertainment
    • Well-informed / Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
    • Learning
    • None
  • For each source ask: “Should I reduce my consumption to create time for other goals?”  Label each “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe”.
  • Pick one information source that has low benefits and you feel most comfortable reducing to create time for other goals.  
Remember, information sources are not either “good” or “bad”.  Some sources help you learn more and some are generally for entertainment or FOMO.  Spending all your time focused on goals and learning and never relaxing is tough to maintain and spending all your time entertaining yourself leads to boredom.  
My Example Reflection
Daily Avg
Should I
I know I could easily reduce TV time and not miss it.  An easy way to implement this change would be to set a timer for 30 minutes when I start watching TV and when the alarm goes off, I’ll do something different.  
Read part 2 of this post to find ways to read more deeply with the time you’ve created from examining your information sources or by filtering your sources on-demand as described in part 2.